I have had the pleasure to host a few Domaine J-L Chave Hermitage events over the years. I’ve done so because I believe it is one of the greatest wines in the world – actually, two of the greatest wines in the world (the white is as magnificent as the red). Very few events have gone as far back as this – to 1975 – the bottles are now just so rare. But to really understand the long ageing curve of the reds (40 years or so), one needs to go back that far, and therefore, so too do we!
Hermitage has been known for centuries to produce potent yet refined, very long lived red wines. Here, Syrah and granite combine perfectly to bring out Syrah’s florals, bright berry fruits, minerality and – at best – a gamey/meaty savouriness, and ‘garrigue’ note of thyme or rosemary. The strength feels more sinewy than blockbustery, and the wine’s intensity, and sweet/savoury/crisp balance begs for hearty food.
Lesser known are the Hermitage whites. Roussanne provides complexity and aromatics, while Marsanne provides flesh and texture. White Hermitage is as long lived as the red, though we see them far less often in Hong Kong than their grand cru white Burgundy counterparts.
The J-L Chave estate is one of our favourites in all the world of fine wine. A family domaine of many generations, where quality is exceptional, and the style is expressive, and stylish without too much “make up”. They hold numerous plots across many of the quite different little “lieux dits” of Hermitage. However, instead of vinifying and bottling them as separate labels, they are blended to produce a red and a white. So, rather than the soloist expression of exalted sites like L’Ermite, Bessards, or Le Méal, we see the full symphonic richness of texture, detail and colour that comes from blending the sites to make Hermitage Blanc and Hermitage Rouge.
I doubt any venue in Hong Kong has opened and served more bottles of J-L Chave Hermitage than Amuse Bouche, so that is where we are entrusting the matching of these wines to great cuisine. We are in for a treat!